Hurricane Katrina, 2005

On August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina, a Category 5 storm with winds of 175 miles an hour made landfall and became the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States.

At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Total property damage was estimated at $81 billion, nearly triple the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

It hit the Louisiana coast and caused sever damage all along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge which flooded Mississippi beachfront homes as boats and casino barges rammed buildings, pushing cars and houses inland, with waters reaching 6-12 miles from the beach.

The most significant number of deaths occurred in New Orleans, which flooded when the levee system catastrophically failed a full day after the hurricane hit. Eventually 80% of the city and large tracts of neighboring parishes became flooded, and the waters lingered for weeks.

Rescuers pushed aside the dead to reach the living in a race against time and rising floodwaters. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said “hundreds, if not thousands, of people may still be stuck on roofs and in attics and so rescue boats are bypassing the dead.

The flooding in New Orleans grew worse by the minute prompting evacuation of hospitals and hotels. The Superdome stadium housed tens of thousands of refugees. Conditions inside became horrendous, there was no air conditioning, the toilets were backed up and the stench was so bad that medical workers wore masks as they walked around. With the water rising in the Superdome, it was decided that the refugees had to be evacuated.

In a city of 480,000 with no drinkable water or electricity, the evacuation became critical. A total of 54,000 military personnel were eventually involved in the security, rescue and relief efforts.

Five years after the hurricane, thousands of displaced residents in Mississippi and Louisiana were still living in temporary accommodations. Mostly mobile home trailers.